CEO vs President: Understanding the Different Influences

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Entering the business world means getting a sense of understanding corporate structure and hierarchy. While many businesses are shifting the landscape to lessen their focus on hierarchical structure, others hold true to the typical business structure. As such, it’s a good thing to understand the differences between CEO vs. President, especially if you are studying Business Administration.


From title to responsibility, level of power, and to whom they report, CEOs and presidents provide different value within corporations. Here we will define their titles and all the relevant information.


This way, when you enter the corporate world, you will have a firm handle on the situation, or even know which you want to become!


CEO vs President: Defining the Titles

The titles and roles of CEO vs president are inherently different. Despite the fact that they are both concerned with the overall success of the organization, their approach to accomplish the business goals differ.


Here’s an overview of what each position means:





CEO stands for Chief Executive Officer. The position reflects the highest position in a business. Overall, a CEO works towards maintaining the long-term vision of the company. They oversee strategy and ensure that the company is financially healthy. In other countries outside of the United States, the CEO may be called a Managing Director. These two positions are one in the same.





The president of a business is also ranked at the top level. The president, however, is more focused on day-to-day operations. They make decisions to ensure that activities are carried out to benefit the business.



Business meeting in a conference room with board of directors
Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels



Corporate Structure

As mentioned, the CEO sits at the top of the hierarchical pyramid within an organization. They also tend to serve as the public face of the company.


Just below the CEO is the president, who deals with employees and leads more internally.



Corporate Governance: The Board of Directors

Businesses also have a Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is elected by shareholders, meaning those with a stake in the company get to choose who oversees its operations to take care of their interests.


The board is involved in big decision-making and can help to establish management policies. The CEO often sits as the Chairman of the Board — but that’s not always the case.


If there is no Chief Operating Officer (COO), then the president is second in command. Sometimes the president can also serve as the COO.



What Does a Board of Directors Do?

Every company is supposed to have a Board of Directors, even non-profit organizations.


They are elected by stakeholders to protect financial interests of those invested in the company. They do this by establishing internal management structures, approving budgets, setting salaries and benefits, and the like. As Chairman, the CEO ensures that this is the case.



Other Roles of CEO vs President

As the public face of the company, the CEO is often responsible to make sales pitches to high-profile customers and partners. They take part in community events and charitable projects to promote the overall publicity of the brand.


Presidents are more intertwined with the daily operations. As such, they have more communication with the human resources and employees within their organizations. Presidents are also responsible for the following duties: managing financials like employee reimbursements for travel, using metrics to measure performance and employee efficiency, and keeping the company in compliance with regulations.



Scope of Work

Because their perspectives are different, presidents and CEOs operate with different goals in mind. For example, a CEO may measure the success of a company based on the long-term sustainability of staying in business.


Since a president is in charge of implementing strategies for efficiency, they will look at more short-term markers of success like company growth.


Some of their respective roles include:



  • Grow company value
  • Advise the Board of Directors
  • Oversee future operations and planning
  • Serve as the ultimate decision-maker



  • Implement company strategy
  • Give feedback to board of directors
  • Handle budgets and finances
  • Lead managers


Company president overlooking data at desk
Photo by from Pexels



Special Exceptions

It’s not likely, but it could happen that a company could have one person who covers the role of both CEO and president. That person could also be the chairman. This happens when the company is small or does not have subsidiaries.


The key takeaways are:

  • The CEO and president serve different roles
  • The CEO is at the pinnacle of corporate structure
  • The President is intertwined with the day-to-day operations of the business
  • It could be that the two positions are held by the same people, but it doesn’t happen too often


What to Study to Become Either

Regardless of which role you may see yourself in, you’ll have to have formal knowledge about business.


The best way to eventually become the CEO or president of a company is by studying Business Administration. Business Administration covers everything from overseeing to implementing strategies within business. It provides education across multiple subjects, including: management, marketing, human resources, finance, project management, and more.


For those who seek high-level positions in business, then a Master of Business Administration is advised. You can earn this degree online while still working. If you’re considering an online degree, check out the University of the People. The MBA program is 100% online and tuition-free. Therefore, you can set your schedule as you wish and study wherever you want.



An Overview: CEO vs President


CEO vs President overview infographic table



The Bottom Line

Businesses rely on many people to be successful. The division of power between a CEO vs president makes it possible for both the long- and short-term business goals to be considered. While a CEO is the face of a company and at the top of the hierarchy, a president is needed to oversee daily functions.


A company’s success is dependent on both the CEO and president operating effectively. If you are considering a position in business and want to excel to the top of the career ladder, then these two positions are your endpoint.


To get started, it will help to excel in your educational career by studying Business Administration. If you do feel that online education is the right path for you, consider the Master of Business Administration at the University of the People.